Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Sep 09

Memory Lane: Comfort Zone Challenge-The Party

My neighbor April and I were talking last Wednesday night when she asked me if I wanted to go to a party that her daughter Joanne was having (a direct marketing party, like selling Tupperware – except this was jewelry). 

Normally under a situation like this I would run for the hills, or at the very least, come up with an excuse and say ‘thanks for thinking of me, but…..’  Parties like these always make me feel like I have to make a purchase and I have more than enough jewelry already.  Plus, mathematically speaking, it was clear to me that I would not know 80% of the people there;  those two things alone were enough to increase my anxiety level 7 or 8 notches. But, remembering my decision to say yes to new things, I quickly said, ‘Thanks for thinking of me; I’d love to.’  Oh, boy.  What did I just agree to?!

My plan was this: I decided that I was going to allow myself to worry about this as much as I wanted – but only two hours before the party.  Every time that ball of anxiety started forming in my stomach, I reminded myself that I could think about it – even obsess about it…but not until 4:30 PM on Friday.  It was hard to keep redirecting my thoughts, but eventually my mind agreed to save up the big ball of stress until Friday evening.

Friday: 4:30 PM
As I curled my hair and put on my makeup (hey, I needed to pull out the ‘big guns’ for this challenge….I wasn’t going to the grocery store, after all) I let my mind go wild with thoughts of standing all alone by the taco dip or worse yet, following my neighbor around all evening like a lost puppy.  I paced the floor for a while, stared at Brulee and then decided to test the theory that if you pet a dog, your blood pressure will go down.  I think I came close to rubbing off all his fur. 


Friday night: 6:25 PM
My husband sees me watching for April at the front door.  He gives me a pep talk.  Says I’ll do fine.

“Don’t forget to smile,” he says.  Check.

“And whatever you do,” he adds, “don’t stand like that.” 

I look down and see my arms firmly crossed across my chest.

“That makes you look like you’re on the defensive.”  Double Check.  

Friday night: 7:00 – 9:45 PM
I walked in and was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone was waiting for me.  They all clapped as I took off my coat and complimented me on my hair and my fabulous sense of style.  Three people fought over who got to fetch me a drink and I spent the rest of the night throwing my head back in laughter as everyone around me lined up to talk to me, even for a brief moment.

Friday night: 7:00 – 9:45 PM (OK, OK…..what really happened)
I smiled;  I complimented Joanne on her lovely home;  I grabbed a bottled water from the kitchen, and I made sure that every person there knew my name.  They didn’t have to remember it; nor would I be hurt if I wasn’t spoken to past the initial, ‘nice to meet you.’  That wasn’t the point.  The point was, I was not invisible and I was reaffirming that thought every time I said, ‘Hi!  I’m Ellen.’

I will admit, it wasn’t an easy crowd.  Everyone there knew each other because they all lived in the neighborhood.  Their kids all played together, so you can imagine all the things they had in common to talk about – things that I couldn’t relate to.  But that was really OK.  It didn’t matter, because I did succeed in talking to two of these women past our standard introduction.  They didn’t leave after a minute of small talk.  They stayed because they wanted to.

I smiled, felt confident.  I gave compliments on hair and clothes; I asked how they knew Joanne.  And I did one more thing that worked like magic:  I asked them about themselves.  People love talking about themselves.  You just have to remember not to ask too many questions – you don’t want to appear like you’re interviewing for a job as a stalker!  lol 

When it was time to go, I made sure that I didn’t forget the receipt for the pair of earrings I’d just bought (you really didn’t think I’d get out of there without making a purchase, did you?), let everyone know how nice it was to meet each of them – and we left. 

It wasn’t until I got home that I felt really and truly proud of myself.  The party itself wasn’t bad compared to the anticipation of it.  I think if I can get over that part, I may just have this whole thing figured out!



You’ve just read a Memory Lane Post, which is a repeat of one of my favorite posts.  This particular post holds special meaning to me because even though I didn’t know it then, attending that party encouraged me to say yes to several other social situations I normally would have avoided. It was a definite turning point for me;  I’ve come a long way since that post, and it’s nice to have a written memory of that.


GIVEAWAY:  Speaking of Memory Lane Posts, you know what that means: it’s time for another giveaway!  Today, I’ll be sending off another item that I’ve personally chosen for my readers; one of my favorite things:

If you use Burt’s Bees then you already know how nice this kit will be.  If you haven’t, here’s an opportunity to have the chance to pamper yourself, and what better way than with the Essential Burt’s Bees Kit, which includes: Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream, Hand Salve, Milk and Honey Body Lotion, Beeswax Lip Balm and Coconut Foot Cream. 

Again, entering is easy.  Just comment on this post and you’re automatically entered into the drawing.  You have until 9 PM EST on Sunday night to enter.  I’ll use Random.org to pick my winner and maybe YOUR name will be announced during Monday’s post!  I welcome and look forward to comments from everyone, but per contest rules, please remember that only US readers can be included in this drawing.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend, everyone.



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  1. Caron says:

    As I get older, I find it is easier to do the social things. I’ve thought about it and it’s only because I don’t worry so much about what people think of me now. What is that quote? “Youth is wasted on the young.”

    • Ellen says:

      Caron, that is THE TRUTH. I find myself saying that more and more as I age; if only I knew then…..I’m getting much better at not caring so much about what others think, and I think that really is one of the true benefits of aging – becoming more comfortable in our own skin.

  2. Roxie says:

    I remember this post and how proud I was for you for doing this. I’m still working on my social skills – I’m suffering from a case of arrested development, I believe. The new tack I’m taking is to watch and learn from a woman in my office – she’s the smoothest operator I know. There is nothing magical about this – we may not have the natural talent in this area, but we can learn some skills to improve, right?

    I so want the Bee stuff!

    • Ellen says:

      See, and I’m amazed that you’re asking strangers to sit with you when you’re eating. That would take a LOT of courage for me to do. We’re each gaining strengths, Roxie. As for having a role-model to watch for pointers, I have one too – my sister is wonderful at this kind of thing and I’m always amazed at how easily it comes to her.

  3. I HATE going to those “parties” and avoid them like the plague. I always feel obligated to buy something. Fortunately, I can’t remember the last time I got an invite:)

    • Ellen says:

      I have to say (no offense to those who host these, by the way) but I avoid them like the plague, too. Those, and baby showers. I’ve drawn a line in the sand with baby showers, especially. But at least I was never asked to buy a baby when I went to those. lol

  4. I remember reading this post and setting similar goals for myself. I always turn down invitations when I’m not 100% comfortable with the people that will be there. You inspired me!

    • Ellen says:

      Well, Katie I have to say, you and I should be in a club of our own! This was the FIRST time I’d ever done anything like this in my life. Actually, choosing one of those kinds of parties was kind of like pouring salt in an open wound, but it makes other things seem not so bad!

  5. Mary says:

    I usually turn down invitations when I don’t know most people – I’m super shy, it’s definitely something I want to get better at. I’m an arm-crosser, too – on my first date with Bobby, I had my arms folded, and he said he was pretty good at reading body language and asked why I was so nervous. I hadn’t even consciously realized I had been doing it!

    • Ellen says:

      I am still that way, Mary. I literally had to force myself to go. Still do. It’s something that comes with practice and fortunately (or unfortunately) situations like that don’t arise often enough for us to get the hang of them. Oh, and I’m always, always doing the arm crossing thing – and I always have to be told that I’m doing it because I never realize it, either.

  6. Jill says:

    I LOVE the idea of allowing yourself to worry about it, but only 2 hours before. That is BRILLIANT. I am going to have to use this technique with my daughter. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    • Ellen says:

      I have to say Jill, this worked for me and I am a chronic worrier about things like this. Every time I started thinking about it I just kept reminding myself that I could worry myself SICK if I wanted to – but only at the designated time. Sounds odd, but it helps tremendously. I hope it helps your daughter.

  7. Carbie Girl says:

    Aww… what a sweet post! I’m terrible at parties with strangers. I know the procedures for making conversation and engaging people but I just dont have the attention span or patience if I approach the wrong person LOL

    • Ellen says:

      It is so hard going to places where you’re left feeling like you don’t belong (which I have felt more times than I care to count!) but just knowing that I was able to get through a worst case scenario made it easier to say yes to the less socially awkward ones. Thanks for your comment – glad I’m not alone!

  8. Anxiety and anticipation is what always kills me prior to events too! I love your trick of diverting yourself with other thoughts. I’m easily entertained (look a shiny rock!) so this will work for me. :)

    PS…Could you put an original date on the next Memory Lane post? I’d love to know how far you’ve come from these memories! I’m not any less proud of you, just curious! :)

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you Jenn for that great idea! I just checked for you and that post was written on October 28th of last year.
      You’re an anxiety and anticipation-prone gal too, huh? Welcome to my world! lol
      Thanks for reading today. Always good to see you!

  9. Marsial2010 says:

    I didn’t remember this post, so I’m glad you reprinted it — very, very nice. Like Karen, I hate “parties” where people expect you to buy something. Now that I am of a “certain age” (65), I get these damned invites in the mail all of the time for a “free” lunch or dinner so that I can be given, at no obligation to me of course, financial information that is absolutely necessary for me to know if I don’t want to end up penniless and toothless, living under a bridge in a few years. Got to love these guys.

    As part of my professional job as an ER Manager, I had to organize and host a lot of dinners for various reasons. During those years, I became adept at engaging people in conversation, drawing people in who looked frightened, and circulating, circulating, circulating. It was all fake since I was actually quite shy in crowds, but I treated it like acting and became quite good at it. The lessons I learned, just as you described above, actually did rub off on me and I no longer am uncomfortable in social situations. But I still don’t want to attend financial seminars, not even for a “free” lunch.

    • Marsial2010 says:

      Oh Ellen, I forgot to say….don’t enter me in this drawing. Although the products look enticing, I wouldn’t want to enter since I won the last giveaway. Now, if you had put up another pair of socks as a prize, I might have to rethink this fairness thing. hahaha

    • Ellen says:

      My sister runs our local hospital’s continuing medical education lectures down to every tiny detail, which means that she has to continuously converse with doctors. Watching her amazes me. Here she is, a tiny thing of less than 5 feet tall and she’s telling doctors the way it is! I wish I could be more like that.
      I’ve received some of the invites you’re referring to. I do believe I’d rather have root canal than attend some of those again. Horrible, horrible things they are!

  10. debby says:

    Loved this post. Especially the part about ‘following your friend around like a lost puppy.’ Oh I could relate to that one quite a bit.

    Loved your idea of not allowing yourself to worry about it until two hours before the party. And petting a dog to lower your blood pressure. No wonder my blood pressure is so low–its the doggies!

  11. Suzanne says:

    I think I need to work on my social skills. I hardly ever go those parties and usually stand in a corner when I do.

    • Ellen says:

      You and I both, Suzanne. I literally had to turn myself into this other person for the evening just to get through it. If I walk in, thinking I’m going to fail, I always do – but for that one evening I was determined to make it work, and for the most part, it did (although I wish people HAD fought over who was going to get me a drink!) lol

  12. munchberry says:

    Lawd I hate those parties and get super peeved when asked to come. But I am so glad you chose this post as a favorite. It is so hard being shy. Those preparty at the door pointers were good ones and it was so good to accept them (I would have barked “You are stressing me out – go away!”). And ever since then you have been getting out and trying and under more enjoyable circumstances.

    I wonder where you will be next year. I am so excited for you.

    To the person who wins that lovely treat – the coconut foot balm is freaking awesome! So is the lip balm (which you can also use elsewhere).

    • Ellen says:

      If I can help it, I’ll never attend another one of those things in my lifetime. I’ve done my time and I’ve completed my ‘experiment’, thank you very much!
      Still have trouble attending parties where I only know the hosts, though. Geez, why is that so hard?! Life should be getting easier by now, right?

  13. Barbara says:

    Thanks for sharing. This post could have been written by any one of us, especially me. Thanks for showing that you have to try in order to succeed!

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for reading, Barbara. It was one of the most difficult challenges I’d ever committed myself to, but truthfully, knowing I had to blog about it helped me to not back out of the thing (which I may have done if I hadn’t already committed myself to it). There’s something to be said about being held accountable!

  14. Chelsey Sloan says:

    AHHH!!! I love Burt’s Bees!!! Haha. My sister and I were just talking last night about our issues in group/unfamiliar situations. I too have been challenging myself a bit to saying “yes” to things I normally would have avoided. It’s a rocky road (mmmm), but I’m making headway with every little follow-through. Kudos to us!

    • Ellen says:

      Ah, another Burt’s Bees lover!! Yay! SO proud that you’re also challenging yourself in this area…it’s so hard, isn’t it?? Seriously, people don’t even know! Glad we’re making headway. In about another year, maybe we’ll OWN these social engagements we go to! lol

  15. The Fat Mom says:

    I remember this post well! And it was great to read it again.

    Those parties always stress me out and I typically don’t go because of that. I’m so glad you were able to put your big girl panties on and march in there with some confidence. :)

  16. teresa says:

    You gave me some good techniques to work with.
    Another great post. I think it’s amazing to have your journey chronicled like this. Especially as you’re moving forward.

    • Ellen says:

      You’re doing this exact same thing, Teresa. With your success in losing weight and chronicling how you’re working through issues and getting closer to your goal – you’ll always have this to remember and it is so helpful to see where you’ve come from.

  17. Susannah says:

    Ellen. I remember this post and I like it so much. It’s like a how-to for attending parties where you don’t know anyone. Really, every post you have about stretching yourself and going beyond your comfort zone is a winner. Very few people are willing to do actually do it. You are brave!

    • Ellen says:

      Susannah, what a nice comment – thank you for that! I tend to go overboard at times, I think. I mean, did I really have to commit to a party where I knew no one? I have a hard enough time at parties where I DO know the people there (I’m much better in smaller crowds). Thank you for reading :)

  18. Wendy says:

    I might actually be the only one who actually loves those parties…the jewelry parties, Scentsy, Pampered Chef…all of them! I’m a total sucker for ’em. Even Mary Kay – though I don’t wear the makeup or use all that moisturizer, but who doesn’t need a new lip gloss or lipstick every now and then?! And not only do I attend them, but I usually get roped into hosting one of my own. To me, it’s really just an excuse to have another party.

    Anyhoo….speaking of lip gloss…..I reeeeeealllly love Burt’s Bees. :-)))

    • Ellen says:

      Wendy, I’m glad you commented. It’s nice to hear from someone who loves these kinds of parties – I knew you were out there, somewhere! lol
      Seriously, I think the reason I don’t enjoy them is because I don’t feel confident enough to say ‘no thank you’ when I don’t need something. By you enjoying them actually shows that you get beyond that feeling enough to enjoy yourself. That’s a great thing.

  19. Julie says:

    I so identify with this post Ellen and had a similar event recently. A couple who work in my building invited me (and most everyone else) to a farewell party. I was so anxious but when my colleague popped her head in the day before to check I was going I found myself telling her exactly how I felt – how hard I find going to events and how I anxious I was about going. She was amazed as she thought I was really confident and outgoing (nope, just an Oscar worthy actress when necessary especially at work!) She suggested I bring someone else along and we had a really good chat. My `option’ person said she wouldn’t go, it would be good for me to go alone. Dishing tough love is supposed to be my role not hers! Anyway I did go and it wasn’t awful. I met someone I know going in and we sat together, there were other people there I knew enough to chat with and I was able to strike up conversation with some younger women about their babies. I did came away SO pleased with myself – I was honest with the hostess to start with and I think that took some pressure off me. Being honest and then making myself do something I didn’t want to made me feel stronger and like I can tackle other things that I find difficult. Next stop – applying for a new job!!! Talk about fear inducing!!! BTW I just ADORE Burt’s Bees products but as I am in Australia need to disqualify myself – maybe I will just buy myself a BB treat instead 😉

    • Ellen says:

      Julie, thank you so much for sharing this story – I loved hearing about it and I wish I could send you a whole bag of Burt’s Bees stuff for going to that party! SO proud of you!! Reading your description of the event made me feel like I was right there with you. Committing to things that we know we find uncomfortable and then doing them gives just enough confidence to make the next hurdle a teeny bit easier to deal with, doesn’t it? Good luck on applying for a new job. I’d love to hear from you again to know how things are going :)

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